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Winemaker family safe after mansion fire

April 20, 2009 5:11:57 AM PDT
A family that owns a Paso Robles winery is safe after a large fire at their mansion in Chatsworth on Monday.The fire reportedly started in the garage of the three-story home 22000 block of La Quilla Street at about 3:40 a.m.

The house was in a gated community where a number of celebrities live, including Cedric the Entertainer and Smokey Robinson.

The family that owns the home, the Hunt family, own a winery in Paso Robles, and David Hunt was just getting back from a special event late Sunday night.

The damage is at an estimated $3 million.

The fire quickly engulfed the garage, burning new cars and six ATVs. Flames moved into the attic while the Hunt family slept.

Derek Hunt was just home from college. He heard the smoke detectors and ran to check on his little sister.

"She wasn't in her bed. She was apparently sleeping in another room, so I found her," he said.

"I saw flames jumping out some door on the second floor right above the garage. That's when I kind of started to panic. I couldn't really see so I got my sister. We ran out."

His mother and father David, who is blind, were trying to make their way out of the burning house through thick smoke. The family gathered on the front lawn and heard loud explosions coming from the garage.

"I'd say 6, 8, 10 explosions. It was like a war zone," said David Hunt.

Fire crews were on scene within 8 minutes, but it took about two hours to get the blaze under control.

"They were able to use not only the water system from the hydrant, but they also used a pool from one of the nearby residences to supplement that water," said Frederic Stowers from the L.A. County Fire Department.

The Hunt family owns Hunt Cellars in Paso Robles, and they put their Chatsworth home of 22 years on the label. But the Hunts said they realize the ATVs, the cars and the damage to the home are all material items that can be replaced. What's most important is that everyone is safe.

"You think fire happens to everybody else. And thank God that we did have a fire detection system because it saved the family," David Hunt said.

Investigators believe the fire started in the garage, but the cause of the fire has not been determined.

David Hunt said he has about 3,000 bottles of wine valued at more than $200,000 in his wine cellar, and figured all of it was a total loss. Investigators said the heat from the fire did not cause the corks to pop, but the quality of the wine inside those bottles remains to be seen.

LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey said a firefighter was struck by falling debris and suffered non life-threatening injuries, including a broken ankle.

About 60 firefighters battled the fire that caused major damage at the 10,000 square-foot mansion.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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